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Tabletop candles flickered in the private dining space of the Windy City’s downtown STK steakhouse. Dimly lit and perfectly placed table settings greeted native Chicago Larenz Tate and his brothers LaRon and Lahmard to dish about NBC’s new drama, Game of Silence.

With hand-picked media seated around about, the meeting of the minds was more of a casual gathering of new found friends, as the cucumber cool trio shared a three course meal. Tate spoke on his leading silver screen role, the machine behind it, his most challenging role and the hold up to the highly requested Love Jones sequel.

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Tate, who’s obviously found the fountain of youth, boasting the same boyish features of his Hollywood debut over two decades ago, went in-depth about the drama:

“It’s a show about a group of childhood friends who reappear in each others lives after a dark secret from their past resurfaces and they decide to band together to right the wrong of their past.

The secret is something that has been haunting them for a long time because when they were kids , they went joyriding- four boys and a girl, in Houston, Texas, and they had no business being behind the wheel and they accidentally hit a woman, almost killing her. So they go to a juvenile detention center, where older inmates bully them, and the correctional officers and warden turn a blind eye to the mistreatment, although they participated.

When these boys experience this, it was torment. They got out and they decide to make a pact to never discuss these things. Twenty five years later, some of them move away, some remained friends. That last showed up on their door step. One of the friends saw the person who tortured us and he went on an emotional rampage after seeing his torturer. He went crazy. Got himself locked up and we are going to come to his aid to get him out, but through getting him out, a hit is put out on him and he is stabbed in prison, while in custody. It’s time for us to seek justice.”

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About his character and what he brings to the table:

“My character Shawn Cook is the glue of the bunch.

One of the good things about the show is that it shows friendship and what it means and how it allowed them to get through. And my character represents the true brotherhood. And what I like about my character is the fact that I have my own brothers and I can bring apart of myself to the role and what it really means if it was my brother that was in trouble.”

The Dead Presidents actor dished on why he chose this particular series, despite other offers:

“When I sat down with NBC, they sent me a couple different TV shows. One was a comedy—I didn’t feel like it was my thing and one was a relationship type thing and it was cool, but I didn’t know if it’d go into a series.

But this cast was an ensemble. It just felt like this was going to be the one that went into a series and it did, and the other ones didn’t make it past a pilot.

The show is all about friendship. I have friends who I’ve had for 20+ years that I’m still cool with so this speaks to me, I can relate to this.”

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The married father of three detailed the behind-the-scenes action in the show’s writing room:

“We started talking about characters, the world, being in the south, and I wanted it to be very clear that my friends reflect a diverse group. In this room, we’re going to talk about race, but don’t feel weird because I’m the brother on the show. I liked how Shawn and Gil are like brothers and grew up together and I liked how we can dispel the idea that Black and white people can’t be friends in a real way.

But we can also talk about how things will happen to me and not to them, and there’s some real cool story lines that will address that because it’s timely. Thing that would happen to me won’t happen to my white friends—and I’m a public figure. And they listened and they started writing and it worked.”

Dialing back, the conversation transitioned into his his arguable most loved character, Darius Lovehall in Love Jones, opposite Nia Long. Shot in his hometown of Chicago 19 years ago, Tate cured curiosity as to why there hasn’t been a sequel and what’s the hold up:

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“It’s one of those things we talk about all the time. There has been a major call of action and I feel like the studio should really take a good listen to it. It hasn’t been on a creative level of me and Nia not wanting to do it, but it has to make sense to the studios business wise.

When the movie originally came out, New Line was known for movies like Friday, Menace to Society, Set It Off and this was something that was new territory for them. They didn’t understand what that market was—it was one of a kind. The numbers did not reflect a box office success but the movie has become colossal in the world as people love that movie, because it goes beyond race and gender and because it was honest.

When I go in there and talk to them about it- which I have, I say just do it to give the people what they want because for the rest of my life I have to answer at question!

Everyone wants me to do a sequel for it and I’m talking to the execs at New Line and we’re talking the business of it and if we can get that, then we’ll be OK.”

Despite a confidence that oozes on screen, the Chicago west-sider described his most challenging role:

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Why Do Fools Fall in Love as Frankie Lymon, hands down. Because you had to go back in a time capsule—people had to believe I was 17 all the way to 26. He had to literally be a totally different person which each woman in his life, and the music and the dancing, it was a tough one for me.”

He went to name the role that he had to force himself to break out of:

“On occasion I have lost myself. I was like that in Dead Presidents with Anthony Curtis. But I was able to shed it.

I really didn’t have a hard time shedding O-Dawg (Menace to Society) because I did Inkwell right afterwards. I deliberately wanted to shed that character!

Now, it’s not just for me anymore, and as actors, it’s a selfish journey. But enter children! I love my babies so I have to find a way to shed that stuff because I have to be me, I can’t bring that home- they can’t understand that.”

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On the Oscars controversy:

“I feel like there’s a bigger conversation to have as opposed to just saying, #OscarsSoWhite, although true. My feeling is about diversity in the boardrooms, the people who’s making the decisions, and there’s not a lot of Black folks in the boardroom making the decisions in a real way. There’s a lot of Black folks that creative, but who’s going to decide what goes?

Boycotting was necessary to make the Academy take a look at itself and reevaluate their process and their reputation. I thought that was strong, but at the same time we have to hold Hollywood more responsible than a award show.”

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Game of Silence premieres after The Voice tonight [Tuesday, April 12. The regular time slot is Thursday, 10/9c, with the second episode airing April 14.

Photo credit: Getty Images